The relationship between cultural and social elements in Japan and the presence and maintenance of trade barriers is examined. The European Community and the US had $23 billion and $60 billion deficits with Japan in 1988, respectively. In particular, the US has experienced a trade deficit with Japan since 1969. Understanding the social and cultural influences is the first step in unravelling the hidden barriers – buyer behaviour, channel relationships, oligopolistic competition, government procurement, regulation and standards, custom valuation codes, intellectual property rights, and industrial targeting. Visible tariff and non‐tariff barriers are also discussed. Strategies for bypassing these barriers are discussed and several examples of how European and American companies have overcome them are offered.
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